At long last, someone has cracked one of the technology world's biggest mysteries — the identity of Fake Steve, a sharp-tongued blogger who had tech aficionados in stitches with a satiric diary purporting to be from Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Now for the really good part: Both the blogger and the guy who outed him are from staunch bastions of Old Media, Forbes magazine and The New York Times.
In a story published on Monday, Brad Stone of the Times outed Dan Lyons, a technology editor at Forbes, as the author of "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs," a daily account of events in the tech industry as seen through a caricature of Jobs. The blog can be found at http://fakesteve.blogspot.com/.
"Damn, I am so busted, yo," wailed a headline on the blog's latest posting, accompanied by a mug shot of someone holding up a floppy-eared dog.
Reached by cell phone in Maine, where he had just begun a family vacation, Lyons said he has heard from several friends who found it ironic that someone from a "dead-tree" media outlet, and not a fellow blogger, had succeeded in solving the puzzle.
"They said the blogosphere is so nearsighted that they only know the world they inhabit," Lyons said, noting that several bloggers were trying to use high-tech tricks such as tracing the electronic signatures of e-mails to figure out who Fake Steve was.
Meanwhile the Times reporter did some shoe-leather reporting by contacting people in the publishing world to gather hints from a proposal for a book that Fake Steve is coming out with in the fall.
Lyons, who has written one novel already, said he found inspiration for another one while doing the blog, and was hoping to keep the identity of Fake Steve secret. However his bosses at Forbes had found out, and they were already planning to move the blog over to Forbes.com. Despite Monday's revelation, the blog will continue to be updated.
Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes, had openly speculated about the identity of Fake Steve as far back as a year ago, and said he didn't mind at all that he didn't find out that Fake Steve was in fact one of his own employees until this April.
In a posting on Forbes' site, Karlgaard said he had been asked by the Times reporter if he was angry that Lyons hadn't come forward earlier, while Karlgaard was still taking public guesses about his identity. (The publisher's last guess was John Hodgman, a comedian who plays "PC" in Apple's Macintosh TV commercials.)
Referring to Fake Steve as "FSJ," as Lyons calls himself on his own blog, Karlgaard wrote: "Angry? Dan had pulled off one of the great spoofs in journalism. I had a ringside seat to the show. Dan and I laughed for days."
Lyons, who is 46, said he stumbled into writing the Fake Steve blog 14 months ago after determining that he needed to figure out how to do a blog. Then he thought of the trend of CEOs supposedly writing personal blogs that were anything but personal.
After settling on Jobs because he was "so easy to caricature," Lyons started reading up on him, having never covered Apple as a news story. He said he found Jobs to be truly "a genius," but also "really dark."
An Apple Inc. spokesman declined to comment.
The release of Apple's much-touted iPhone came in for particular ribbing, with Fake Steve claiming in a headline that day: "29 June 2007: The day the world changed." A long posting on the phone started out "Apple faithful ..." and concluded "Namaste. Much love. Peace out. Dear Leader."
Many leading luminaries of the tech world came in for a pasting, starting with longtime Apple nemesis Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, who is playfully referred to as "Beastmaster."
Lyons says he didn't intend the blog to sound mean, and had dialed back the sarcasm on occasion if readers posted comments suggesting that a particular jab had gone too far.
"If it veered into being mean and somebody complained, I'll apologize," Lyons said. "But I think most of it is not very blue and not very mean."
As the blog moves to Forbes.com, Lyons said his editors were "adamant" that it keep its edge, something that Lyons is perfectly fine with. "That's what makes it funny," Lyons said. "What if 'South Park' started being nice?"
Karlgaard, the Forbes publisher, said by phone that he doesn't expect to hear a lot of complaints about the blog even after it moves to Forbes.com.
"Dan is a huge talent, and Fake Steve Jobs attracted a following because Dan writes with exuberant energy and no inhibition. I expect it to continue," Karlgaard said. "I don't sense that people are deeply wounded by this."